Jake Austin Szymanski (born December 3, 1994), known professionally as Jake T. Austin, is an American actor. Beginning a career as a child actor at the age of seven, Austin is a five-time Young Artist Award nominee, best known for his role as Max Russo on the Disney Channel series Wizards of Waverly Place, and as the voice of Diego on the Nickelodeon animated series Go, Diego, Go!. Austin was also the original actor who portrayed Jesus Foster on the ABC Family family/teen drama series The Fosters.
Austin was born in New York City, the son of Giny Rodriquez Toranzo and Joe Szymanski. His middle initial, “T”, is taken from his mother’s maiden name. His mother is of Puerto Rican, Argentine, and Spanish descent, and his father is of Polish, Irish, and English descent. Austin embraces his Puerto Rican heritage, though he admits not being fluent in Spanish. He has one younger sister, Ava.
Austin’s career began in 2002 when he appeared in commercials. A year later, he appeared in his first credited acting role as Kid 1698 in a comedy sketch on The Late Show With David Letterman. In 2004, he landed his first major role – voicing Diego, the cousin of Dora, on the hit Nickelodeon animated series Dora the Explorer. He continued to voice Diego on the spin-off series, Go, Diego, Go!, for three seasons. Along with voicing Diego, Austin was cast in multiple voice roles for the feature films The Ant Bully and Everyone’s Hero – he was also cast in the Comedy Central special Merry F#%$in’s Christmas. In 2006, Austin landed the lead role of Angel Macias in his first live-action feature film, The Perfect Game, which was based on a true story about the first non-U.S. team to win the 1957 Little League World Series. The film wouldn’t be released in the United States until more than three years later due to post-production financing difficulties.
2007–11: Wizards of Waverly Place
Austin appeared in his first Walt Disney Company production in 2007 when he portrayed the role of Chris in the Disney Channel original film Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board. Later that same year, he was cast as Max Russo in the Disney Channel series Wizards of Waverly Place. He played the youngest sibling of a wizarding family, co-starring with Selena Gomez and David Henrie. Until the end of the Wizards of Waverly Place in 2011, Austin appeared in multiple Disney productions. In the summer of 2009, he played the role of Max Russo in Wizards on Deck crossover episode which included two other popular Disney shows, The Suite Life on Deck and Hannah Montana.
During the same summer, he starred in the made-for-television film Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie. The film was a ratings hit, becoming the second most-viewed Disney Channel film at that time, behind High School Musical 2. It was also the #1 scripted telecast of 2009. Austin made his live action feature film debut in 2009 with the role of Bruce, an orphan who hides numerous dogs in an abandoned hotel, in the DreamWorks film Hotel for Dogs. In the fall of 2010, Austin was named as one of the “25 Brightest Latino Stars Under 25” by Latina magazine. He has written and sold his first screenplay, Kings of Suburbia, which he has said is written in the same vein as his favorite film Stand By Me.